Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. They are built by corals, bryozoans, sponges, crustaceans and molluscs and also provide a home to larger animals. So you can only imagine the variety of fossils we will have on display at Science Uncovered this Friday from our researchers' recent collecting spree in Indonesia.
Our Science Station will be located in an alcove of Central Hall (orange no. 7 on the map [PDF]) and will showcase the work of 11 early stage researchers as they collaborate on the Throughflow Project. Their aim is to find out why the coral reefs in South East Asia are the most diverse in the world and how corals have responded to climate change.We have an array of fossil corals as well as a fossil giant clam we are preparing especially for the event, and much more.
Like many of the Science Stations at the event you will have the chance to meet the Museum scientists who conduct research on and are responsible for the care of these amazing specimens. We can answer your questions (for example, some of you may be wondering what a bryozoan is from my earlier sentence) and you’ll also be able to play our game "Coral Match," be the first to identify a sample of fossil corals, or become a "Foram Hunter" and use a microscope to find the single celled organisms we use to date our fossil samples. So come along and get involved!
What would a Giant Clam like this one look like after it became fossilised around 25 million years ago?
© Terry Dormer / The Natural History Museum, London
What is the Throughflow Project?
The Throughflow Project is named after the only marine current that connects the Pacific and the Indian oceans, the Indonesian Throughflow. Scientific evidence shows a sudden increase in coral diversity around 25 million years ago during the Miocene. It is estimated that this is also a time when most modern taxa evolved. We already know that this was as a time of tectonic activity in the area as well as global climate change but what we want to determine is the effect this had on the coral reefs at the time.
Our (lucky) researchers during the fieldtrip to Indonesia
Funded by the Marie Curie Initial Training Network and the FP7 People Programme, the project involves collaborations between seven European organisations as well as partners from Indonesia. At the Natural History Museum the Marie Curie Fellows are Emanuela Di Martino and Nadia Santodomingo who work on Bryozoans and Corals respectively. Meanwhile I’m joining them in the process of washing and then curating three tons of fossil coral samples with another five tons being shipped form Indonesia as we speak. Just to put that into perspective the average weight of an African elephant is around 4.6 tons. These fossil corals will form an important part of our collections for future research, especially in regard to climate change studies.
So please come and visit us at Science Uncovered.
See you there
Indian and Indo-Pacific Corals Project Officer
About Science Uncovered 2011:
Science Uncovered is a free event on Friday 23 September 2011 at the Natural History Museum. All events and tours at Science Uncovered will be free but, due to time and space constraints, some will require you to book free tickets in advance.
To find out more visit Science Uncovered on the Museum’s website.
The Natural History Museum at Tring, Hertfordshire, will also be holding its own Science Uncovered event. Find out more about Science Uncovered in Tring.
To get involved before the night, visit our Science Uncovered online community where you can get previews of what’s happening and join in with discussions and debates.